Poor sanitation impacts an even higher percentage of Haitians than the lack of potable water or the lack of medical services. Many Haitians frequently urinate “anywhere” regardless of an urban or rural setting. The solution for feces is not much better; many Haitians simply “go behind the nearest bush”. When latrines are available, they are typically a deep “cesspool”; a simple hole in the ground with concrete sides and no bottom, sometimes covered by a latrine building but not always. Indoor plumbing is rare and when available the effluent is flushed into a structure as described above with no treatment or septic “leach” fields. All of these practices lead to continual outbreaks of cholera AND eventually contaminate ground water sources.
Improved sanitary approaches are essential for maintaining water quality and controlling cholera outbreaks. Composting Programs and Latrines are recognized as the most cost effective, easily managed and ultimately self-supporting manner in which to address this issue, particularly in rural areas where compost can be used as fertilizer for food growth. The Haitian climate is perfect for this approach, turning waste into usable fertilizer in a very short period with no disease or odors when done properly. Northern Friends of Haiti has been building composting latrines with hand-wash stations and developing hygiene education programs in local schools as a starting point. Expansion of these programs into the villages and individual homes will be the next step.